As we celebrate International Women’s Day today, Francesca Campanelli, Chief Commercial Officer at Axyon AI reflects on her career and tells us why she believes that ‘the tide is starting to turn’ when it comes to closing the gender gap in financial services.
“When I started my career as a portfolio manager, I used to meet or interview women in the same position.
On one occasion, I was very impressed by a French woman who was head of the fixed income team of a large asset management firm. Notably though, she apologised early in the meeting for showing up with her hair untidy. It was frustrating to me because under the same circumstances, a man would never have apologised for not having a tie or jacket, but the situation is different for a woman.
“Promisingly though, the tide is starting to turn. In recent years, I have witnessed a change of attitude about how women must present themselves in the workplace, and it warms my heart when I see women acting more confidently and being less worried about stereotypes. It is the small things which help us stay true to our authentic selves. And this authenticity is essential in all relationships, even in the work environment.”
“As a woman who has spent more than 20 years working in the financial services industry, I can attest to the benefits of having greater gender diversity in the workplace – those of all genders and also for the industry as a whole.
“From my experience, having greater gender diversity can bring new perspectives and ideas to the table. I’ve seen first-hand how having women in decision-making positions can offer unique insights and approaches that may have been overlooked in a predominantly male environment. These can lead to more innovative solutions and strategies that ultimately benefit the business and clients alike.
We need more women in finance
“Another point is related to the support and expertise that women have in understanding and serving female clients. We shouldn’t forget that women represent a significant proportion of the customer base in financial services. Having female counterparts who relate to and who understand the customer’s needs can help improve overall satisfaction and retention rates.
“As women, I believe that we should be encouraged by our families, by our schools, and by society in general to pursue careers in finance. We should trust ourselves in owning these leadership roles, knowing that our presence and contributions can make a meaningful difference and inspire other women to pursue the same path.”
“Having a more inclusive culture is also crucial if we are to attract and retain the top talent in financial services businesses, which ultimately improves business performance and profitability.
“In an environment where all individuals feel valued and respected – independently from their background, age and gender – they are more likely to stay with the company long-term. This can lead to improved productivity, higher employee engagement, and increased loyalty to the business.
“Lastly, an inclusive culture fosters fairer decision-making processes. When a team comprises of individuals with diverse backgrounds and perspectives, internal discussions are more well-rounded, and decisions are taken considering a broader range of perspectives.”
How can the glass ceiling problem be resolved?
“Compared to when I started my career journey in the financial sector, this is an exciting time for younger generations of women considering careers in finance and financial services. Although women are still
underrepresented in leadership roles, those starting their journey now will have more significant opportunities for advancement and can see greater representation in leading positions.
“Over the past few years, we have seen an increasing focus on diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Many companies have been taking active steps to address gender imbalances and increase the representation of women in senior positions. Some examples include initiatives such as encouraging women to apply also for management roles, women as independent board members in financial companies, or the proliferation of women’s associations to promote the role of women. I am proud to be part of one of these Women’s Associations. I can testify to the enormous work done promoting diversity of thought, raising visibility, and empowering women at each career stage to find their path to success.
“Research on diversity and leadership shows that by having 30%* representation within a group is often considered a tipping point. At this size, a minority subset can enact change and make a difference within the broader group. The entire industry is committed to reaching this percentage of women in roles below C-suite in 10-15 years. This is a challenging goal, but it’s possible if an inclusive culture is standard for all financial services companies.
“I am optimistic that the gender gap in financial services will continue to close in years to come. Younger generations of women should be encouraged to pursue careers in financial service companies, knowing they will have more significant opportunities for advancement and representation in leadership roles. Thanks to improved and more effective networking among women, many careers are helped by a soft-of buddy system which provides support and counsel and mitigates the difficulties, especially in the first years.”